No single prime contractor may be appointed to replace Fujitsu in the programme to upgrade NHS IT systems in the South of England. Instead, the region may be split between the two remaining prime contractors, BT and Computer Sciences Corporation.

E-Health Insider has learned that some trusts covered by NHS South East Coast, one of three strategic health authorities in the south, are now looking at an alternative iSoft future, with CSC recently demonstrating iSoft products to them.

Trusts looking at iSoft alternatives are thought to include existing iSoft sites and trusts with a critical need to replace ageing systems. The failure of the contract reset in the south means there is no timetable for any further trusts to get new systems through the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

BT, the local service provider for London, is currently in negotiations to take over the eight installations of Cerner Millennium care records software carried out by Fujitsu before it was removed as LSP in June.

BT, which is installing Cerner at trusts in the capital, had been thought frontrunner to take over as LSP in the south. However, EHI understands that differences between the three strategic health authorities on the preferred approach and choice of CRS product mean a straight LSP replacement may not happen.

NHS Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for NPfIT, says that following the NPfIT local ownership programme it will be up to local NHS organisations in the south to choose their future path.

An NHS CFH spokesperson said: "Demonstrations have taken place in the South East Coast SHA by both CSC and BT. This is in line with the undertaking given by NHS CFH at the time of the termination of the Fujitsu contract that trusts could consider a range of options with regard to their requirements going forwards."

In recent US analyst briefings, CSC has been making cautiously optimistic noises about the potential to win new business as a result of Fujitsu’s departure.

And a straight swap of BT for Fujitsu now looks less and less likely. Uncertainties resulting from the year- long contract reset, and problems with some of the early implementations, mean that no other trusts in the south have yet committed to take the Cerner CRS product.

The only trusts currently contractually committed to Cerner are those already live and which now requiring promised upgrades.

NHS South East Coast first began looking at the viability of an iSoft alternative to Cerner in 2007, with particular interest in the idea coming from the Kent and Medway Domain Board, one of the implementation areas the region is divided into. An iSoft alternative was also examined in 2007 by the South West Family Board.

While the contract reset negotiations continued, there was little optimism in the areas that major changes could be achieved. Since Fujitsu’s departure this view appears to have changed.

A 2007 SHA board paper makes clear the frustration and difficulties caused by delays across Kent and Medway and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells (MTW) NHS Trusts. “Across Kent and Medway, and within MTW, trusts are now at crisis point with key systems that require replacement. MTW has put off investment with the expectation that Connecting for Health would deliver the range of functionality first described in 2002.”

One anonymous industry expert told EHI part of the problem with the region was that it has always been too big to be cohesive, with the south east part always retaining a strong separate identify. He said this had bedevilled the efforts to agree a contract reset. “The SHAs have not always seen eye to eye."